succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, October 23, 2004


If you have any problems on election day or feel that your voting rights have been violated in any way, call the Election Protection Legal Hotline (toll free) 1-866-OUR-VOTE.


Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.


Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Voters - know your rights! If you are denied the right to vote because they don't believe you live in the county where you are registered, or for some other reason believe you are at the incorrect polling place, demand a provisional ballot! By law, they are required to provide you with a ballot to cast, then hold it until they can determine whether or not to legitimately count your vote. Most places are not going to volunteer this information, so know your rights!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

C.J.: "Everyone's stupid in an election year, Charlie."
Charlie: "No, everyone gets treated stupid in an election year, C.J.."

Wee! Two posts in as many days. I must have some time on my hands. Or something I'm avoiding. I'll let you decide.

First up, this scary account of the 'beginning of the peace' in Iraq:

Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city.

Much of the Sunni Triangle was only sparsely patrolled, and Baghdad was still reeling from a spasm of looting. Apache attack helicopters prowled the skies as General Franks headed to the Abu Ghraib North Palace, a retreat for Saddam Hussein that now served as the military's headquarters.

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

That was 17 months ago.

The article goes on to say:
But many military officers and civilian officials who served in Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 say the administration's miscalculations cost the United States valuable momentum - and enabled an insurgency that was in its early phases to intensify and spread.

"I think that there were Baathist Sunnis who planned to resist no matter what happened and at all cost, but we missed opportunities, and that drove more of them into the resistance," Jay Garner, the first civilian administrator of Iraq and a retired Army lieutenant general, said in an interview, referring to the Baath Party of Mr. Hussein and to his Sunni Muslim supporters. "Things were stirred up far more than they should have been. We did not seal the borders because we did not have enough troops to do that, and that brought in terrorists."

(emphasis mine)
The whole thing feels like a sad, scary parallel to the beginning of the AIDS crisis (hey, I'm in public health, what sorts of comparisons do you expect?). Throughout the early 80s, nearly every health expert on the ground, from scientists at the CDC to local health department officials to researchers at major universities were begging for more money to study AIDS. Most couldn't even afford the most rudimentary lab supplies, delaying the discovery of the virus for years (this is a big deal because discovery of the virus enabled us to create a test for the disease and thus people could know if they were positive and hopefully reduce the spread of AIDS). Anyway. While all this was going on, anyone in an administrative position maintained they had all the money they needed, because that was the party line they had to tow if they wanted to keep their jobs. And now it seems like anyone who's actually been in Iraq is saying we need more troops, while all the higher ups are insisting that everything is just fine. We should be smart enough to see through this. I'm not all eager to send more boys and girls over there, and I want to start bringing them home as much as the next person. But inadequate troop numbers do nothing other than endanger those who are currently there and further jeopardize any hope we have of 'winning the peace.' This should be way more important than any politicking over here.

And speaking of the need for more troops, two articles in the Times today address the whole draft issue. Sure, this is an ugly rumor that's been going around for a while, and both candidates insist they have no plans to activate the draft. But this is a new spin on things:
In a recent article in The Wisconsin Medical Journal, published by the state medical society, Col. Roger A. Lalich, a senior physician in the Army National Guard, said: "It appears that a general draft is not likely to occur. A physician draft is the most likely conscription into the military in the near future."

And Krugman makes this point:

Those who are worrying about a revived draft are in the same position as those who worried about a return to budget deficits four years ago, when President Bush began pushing through his program of tax cuts. Back then he insisted that he wouldn't drive the budget into deficit - but those who looked at the facts strongly suspected otherwise. Now he insists that he won't revive the draft. But the facts suggest that he will.

Bottom line is, eventually the talk on the ground that we need more troops will percolate up the food chain, and if we're serious about salvaging this thing in Iraq, it looks like we'll need more people over there. And given this president's history, the chances that if he gets another four years we'll find ourselves in another country (in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan) are not negligible. So one way or another, we're going to need more soldiers. Obviously, the preferred way to do that would be to offer better pay and support and thus attract more volunteers. But this guy hasn't seemed to inclined to do that either. I may trepidatiously say that I almost believe Bush when he says he has no plans at the moment to re-enact the draft. But I think any rational person can see that with another four years of him, the chances of another draft are significantly increased.

Lastly, for anyone who doesn't regularly visit my friend Steve's blog, he has posted an excellent outline of some scary affects another four years of Bush could have on our judicial system.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The "It's about damn time I sat down and wrote in this thing" Edition

Yeah yeah, as usual, I've been remiss in updating. Oh woe is me, such a full and exciting life that I can't be chained to this laptop. Yeah. Something like that. Anyway, my political news is a little outdated, but, you know, deal with it. Or skip down to where I talk about my life. Who knows what you people want.

So Mark Halperin wrote this little memo floating the brilliant idea that maybe journalists should present the truth, and if the truth is a little unbalanced, well, so be it. Of course, the shit hit the fan. Josh Marshall has a nice take on the whole thing:

"Various right-wing barkers are trying to make it out as though Halperin has been caught in some impolitic or embarrassing remark. But quite the contrary is the case.

"This is simply a news organization trying to grapple with the same reality that every respectable news outlet is now dealing with -- how to report on the fusillade of lies the Bush campaign has decided to use against John Kerry in the final weeks of the campaign.

"The plain intent of the memo is to tell ABC reporters that they should feel neither obligated nor permitted to equate the level of deceptiveness of the Kerry and Bush campaign's if and when they are in fact not equal.

"Everyone can see that they are not equal. Halperin is just saying it. And in doing so he has run smack into the epistemological relativism that now defines the Republican party.

"The most noteworthy thing I've seen in the right-wing response is that there seems to be little effort to deny or engage the question of whether the Bush campaign is being qualitatively more dishonest than the Kerry campaign. All the whining is focused on the fact that any news organization would have the temerity to try to distinguish between them."

In older, and far, far more terrifying news, we continue to do a real bang-up job over there in Iraq:

Equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons have disappeared from Iraq, the chief of the U.N.'s atomic watchdog agency has warned.


The U.S. government prevented U.N. weapons inspectors from returning to Iraq -- thereby blocking the IAEA from monitoring the high-tech equipment and materials -- after the U.S.-led war was launched in March 2003.


Anti-proliferation agreements say that the United States, which administered Iraq until June 2004, and the Iraqi interim government, which took over from the United States in June, must inform the IAEA of any import or export of such materials and equipment.

But since March 2003 "the agency has received no such notifications or declarations from any state," [IAEA head Mohamed] ElBaradei said.

The nuclear agency has since then had to rely on satellite imagery to work out what is happening with Iraq's nuclear sites.

So basically, we kicked the UN inspectors out, went on some mission to find WMDs that it has now become clear did not exist, and in the meantime lost track of the other equipment and materials that we did know existed and were monitoring!? Wow, I'm so glad we had such a good, organized plan for this thing. Please oh please oh please can we have a new leader who doesn't act like a four year old? Pretty please?

Steve and Travers both brightened my weekend by sending me links to the transcript and video of Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. If you have somehow missed this awesome moment in television history, surf over and check it out. All I can say is, God Bless Jon Stewart. More like him, please.

All right, so what have I been up to?

The past two weekends have been fantastic. Last Friday night I ended up with an impromptu debate party at my place, which was nice, since people don't hang out here very often. I miss the constant socializing and hosting of Belmar Estates. Even though I didn't do so much "hostess with the mostest-ing" I was really happy to have people over. Sunday was sloth day and I stayed in my pajamas until 4 pm and only changed into real clothes because it was time to go to a Kerry fundraising dinner with Travers. This gets a little convoluted, but it was thrown by his ex-girlfriend's parents. And wow are they awesome. You guys know how much I love my parents, and I wanted these people to adopt me. Afterwards it was time for Andy's birthday party, which, IMHO, was just the right size. Not wild and crazy, but nice and mellow. Monday I dragged my butt out of bed in time to meet Brian for lunch (friend from Case, graduated a year before me; Mark and Carrie always claimed I had a big crush on him; I do not, just for the record). Which was SO NICE. I haven't seen him in over a year, he and his wife just moved down here this summer so she could start her residency at Emory Hospital. I had forgotten how much I like talking to that kid. Glad he's around again. After that I met back up with the boys for the Sweetwater Brewery Tour. Out of town friends - if ever you should visit me over a Monday or Thursday, we are going on this tour. $5 gets you four good beers and pleasant company, even if you are standing outside in a parking lot. And, I maintain, these are higher alcohol content beers than usual. Then again, I'm probably only saying that because I got really, really drunk. Curling up on the boys' couch afterwards waiting to sober up and demanding they buy me chocolate from the Whole Foods next door was just an added treat.
Then this past weekend I did some phone banking for GA for democracy (Georgia registered voters - Ask me about early voting!) then the boys and I took a little field trip to Green's Beverage for high gravity import beers. Did our own little beer tasting Saturday night. All I have to say about that is that Pink Elephant beer (not the actual name) is not very good, even after eight beers Samichlaus Bier still tastes like ass, and should you ever have the opportunity to drink Utenos Porter, do so! Sunday morning Travers and I dragged our not-quite-hungover-but-still-incredibly-sleepy butts out of bed for AIDSWalk Atlanta. Thankfully, we had an absolutely beautiful day for a three mile walk. And I probably owe him several beers or food or something for being such a good sport about my somewhat hyper fellow Kerry Win Georgia teammates. That afternoon I totally rocked my homework for a brief couple of hours before heading back out to a free K's Choice concert. Did I mention that I first saw K's Choice about 9 years ago as the opening act for Alanis Morissette? Yeah, I went to an Alanis Morissette concert when I was 14. I'm so cool. Not.